Acceptance of future xenotransplantation of porcine insulin producing cells: differences amongst population groups
Introduction The main challenge of diabetes research today is to find a treatment that results in a more permanent normoglycaemia. A promising approach is the transplantation of porcine insulinsecreting cells by implantation of purified cell preparations. However, xenotransplantation provokes strong feelings and diverse opinions. Not only the risk for transmitting viruses to the community, but also the nature of the transplanted material therefore justifies studying people's concerns. The limited number of surveys addressing this issue is only referring to solid animal organ transplantations. However, it can be expected that the implantation of animal cell grafts, compared to organ transplantation, will activate different emotional responses.
Materials and methods The objective of the current research project is to study attitudes of patients with IDDM (Insulin Dependent Diabetes Mellitus) as well as those of the general public towards xenotransplantation of pig islet-cells in the Dutch speaking part of Belgium. Recently, 974 respondents were questioned in a quantitative study (survey). The questionnaire included 8 relevant topics, laden with ethical, ecological, religious, emotional and financial considerations, namely (1) perceived influence of diabetes on daily live, (2) acceptability of human donor transplantation, (3) expected impact of human donor transplantation on body image, (4) acceptability of using animals for medico-therapeutic applications, (5) acceptability of using animal material for transplantation in humans, (6) acceptability of using pig islet cells for transplantation, (7) balance between patient's and public interest, and (8) role of public opinion in regulatory work on xenotransplantation.
Results Although xenotransplantation is not prominent on the public agenda, most of the respondents (82%) showed a permissive attitude towards xenotransplantation. While patients with IDDM are more likely to accept xenotransplantation, respondents of the general public differ in their opinions. Structural equitation models (AMOS) showed that apart from age, occupational background and experience with diabetes, differences in attitudes towards xenotransplantation can be explained by ethical, ecological and psychological factors.